It didn't take Audrey Woulard long to recognize what would be the most obvious advantage the Z 7II offered her photography. "I saw it immediately," she says.
And "it" was?
"The camera's dynamic range."
And that's because....?
"Where I typically shoot, there are typically competing light sources," she explains. "I can be in a spot where it's very bright on one side, very dark on the other, and I need to have great detail in both my shadows and highlights. So the Z 7II's dynamic range was the game-changer for me."
And where Audrey shoots is a major part of the game. Her website for high school senior and teen photography is called Kids and the City. The city is Chicago; the look is authenticity.
"I shoot downtown," she says. "Lots of viaducts, the train system, alleyways—I go under there and it's very dark, but right behind or to the side of the person I'm photographing there's often bright sun. When I looked through the camera on this shoot—and it was my first shoot with the Z 7II—I was like, 'Wow, I can see separation between light and dark, between the subject and the background, and there was lots of good detail in all the shadow areas. I loved it.'"
Nice first impression, we'd say.
I need to have great detail in both my shadows and highlights...the Z 7II's dynamic range was the game-changer for me.
Look at any selection of Audrey's kids-on-the-street photos and you might figure it's a matter of get the shot and get to the curb. Fast.
"It's more controlled than it looks," she says.
Indeed it is. There are permissions, permits, procedures. But still, there's the need for speed—which brings us nicely and naturally to the second advantage the Z 7II offered up.
"When you're dealing with young people, they get bored, often quickly," Audrey says, "and if they're just standing there I'm not going to get the eye contact, the engagement, that I crave. So I want them moving. Sometimes I might have them spin. I might have them jump. I will photograph them sometimes in mid-walk—and I'll be walking with them. It's not like I’m standing there waiting for them to hit a spot. I move with my subjects."
Which means that the Z 7II's shutter advance at ten frames per second, the speed of its autofocus system, with its advanced low-light capability, and the quick lock-on of its Eye Detection AF were notable and appreciated advances. "If you're in the middle of the street and you're having your subjects jump, twirl or kick their legs—yes, it's controlled to an extent," Audrey says, "but people are going to stop and watch, and you don't want that kind of traffic jam. For that aspect alone, I still have to get what I need and get out of there."
The photos here are indicative of the student portraits Audrey specializes in and excels at because of her mastery of the challenges of light and location. "I don't like to create scenes in the studio," she says. "If they see a beautiful setup they kind of already know what to expect, and I think that part of the experience I deliver is the spontaneity, the unknown. When they see the pictures, they're pleasantly surprised. And the even more important element [of the location] is the light: the way it bounces off different areas of the city—it can be very soft, beautiful light. I love that, and it's hard to duplicate in the studio."
So it's go for the authentic locations and face the challenges of the light and the streets. "When I walk up to a scene and someone doesn't know what I'm doing, it doesn't look good," she says, "but I know the light. Someone who doesn't know my photography is going to be like, Why are you coming here? It's an unknown—until they see the pictures."
In fact, taking her subjects by surprise is part of the experience, and a result of her skills. "I don't create or choose a scene where someone else can come along, pick up a camera and take the shot standing behind me. They have to know exactly what I was going for."
Along with location, creating the experience and styling the session to the subject are parts of the game she finds changed by the capabilities of Nikon's next-generation Z 7II. "This a great step forward for me."